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The Justice Department Faces Questions After Effectively Preventing Bankman-Fried from Testifying in Congress

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he arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried yesterday was sudden and unexpected in light of Bankman-Fried’s plan to testify before Congress. As a criminal defense attorney, my reaction to the arrest last night remains unchanged: this is the first time that I can recall where prosecutors moved aggressively to stop a defendant from making self-incriminating statements. His testimony would have been entirely admissible and likely devastating at trial.

I previously wrote how Bankman-Fried was doing harm to his case by speaking in the media and to Congress. So why would the Justice Department move to stop the self-inflicted damage? You have a major target who was about to voluntarily testify for hours.

That is ordinarily a dream for prosecutors, but the Justice Department moved quickly to prevent that from happening. At that stage, Bankman-Fried was not charged or in custody. He was not protected by Miranda or other constitutional rules from self-incriminating statements.

Indeed, some of us had already warned that he was causing himself considerable damage in making such statements. This was a defendant with a large legal team facing possible criminal charges who seemed eager to speak about his actions and motivations. Most prosecutors would sit back, make popcorn, and watch this unfold.

The curious move led many to question whether the Biden Administration was eager to prevent questions on Bankman-Fried’s political contributions and associations. He was the second highest donor to Democratic causes in the last election cycle.  His mother, a law professor at Stanford also heads a major Democratic campaign fund.

It is also possible that the Justice Department simply wanted to show the public that it was moving aggressively despite his close Democratic ties. It may have secured sufficient evidence (including possible cooperating witnesses) to satisfy the basis for charges and an extradition request. Moreover, the charges are likely to make some Democratic figures uncomfortable as this matter enters the criminal process.

 

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